An Event for the Netizens

Lately I am going to so many events , most are tech or social media related, but … well… a lot of the time… the digital me feels at unease and disappointed, unable to share the event with the world or growing a grudge against the organizers, so I decided to write this simple guide declaring openly to all event organizers that anything less would be a disappointment, and ,well if they do the things I mentioned, they will make the online community more involved in their events and expand their reach and visibility. Don’t they all want that?

Ah well, as my main objective is self centered I mainly focused in things that need to be going during and after the event. (Plus most of them score well on before event stuff after I corner them with my questions in emails) .

1. # – Have a HASHTAG!

This is an out most basic, but then again most event organizers forget to make it short enough, announce it publicly more than once and most importantly forget to register it at a hashtag repository like twubs or  wthashtag,  so most of the time I am livetweeting from an event my followers start asking me “what is this and that #xyz … any links…  ?”

2. Official LiveTweeting

That brings us naturally to livetweeting. I have already talked about the importance of livetweeting here but i just wanted to emphasize that event organizers need to keep on livetweeting from the official event account to update people at the event on what is happening, remind who the speakers are and what their handles are, tell them where the live feeds are (doesn’t hurt to do all that in parallel on linked in and facebook as well) … AND if you are an event sponsor, especially at an event centered around social media, especially if your produce is focused around social media, big thumbs down to you if you are not tweeting about the event and not quoting your guest speaker. Yes @zawya I am talking about you and your zero tweets at MediaMeForum and your replying only two days later to my tweets. Which brings me to my next point.

3. Answer & Engage Tweets

For starters, there is no fun for a hashtag without a livescreen. At MediaMEForm the guys did a great job of livetweeting what was happening, BUT [yes it is a big but] they completely dismissed the twitter community. The twitter Screen was live only during the panels and it was put in a place where no speaker can see what we were talking about, and even the moderator did not address any questions from the tweets, nor did their official twitter channel. Unlike ArabNET, where there were ginormous screens dedicated to tweets and speakers paying full attention to what was happening with one speaker undressing to get a wave of tweets. Still , I think the impact will be even more augmented if you have a dedicated moderator to pick at least two questions from the twittersphere for each panel/speaker and ask them at the event. Honestly speaking, the questions are more pungent, very well formulated and more daring and provoking more mindful discussions, isn’t that what you want? Aren’t your events targeted at identifying the trends of the future?

4. Live Ustream

I was on the peak of bliss drinking my Pepsi, eating popcorn in my PJs watching the pitches at Yallastartup weekend day 1 and working on the other laptop in parallel… but then, lo and behold once the pitches ended and we started getting some cool behind the curtains views of the audience, their feedback and interactions, seeing familiar faces….. THEN the stream turned off and a vigilant message told me that the stream will only resume after one day to show the final pitches and that all in between will not be documented… I felt that that was plain mean… YallaStartup weekend is a sort of non-commercial example.

So all of you event organizers will be saying :”why should we put the stuff live for free, when people pay to attend?”

And I’ll tell you. one has nothing to do with the other.

Most of us attend the events for the networking and has nothing to do with the panels and the speakers, who by the way we realize travel from one event to the other with similar presentations, who most of the time blog a lot and more in depth about the subject, or write whole books on the matter… So you putting up a live stream doesn not diminish your financial gain, which BTW you have reaped in full from teh event sponsors and paying attendees. So you may as well give the sponsor’s their money’s worth and help promote their brands and spread their messages and you event’s messages (while your at it) to even more people. People, who by the way are highly targeted individuals, who simply could not catch a flight, or whose bosses came to the event but left them at the office, or teh bosses who sent employees there and want to make sure that they sent them to an interesting event… People who would love to come to the event next year. People who would tweet about the event and talk and talk about it…

It was so amazing to watch the few panels I have missed (due to my weird trip schedule) at Media ME Forum on their UStream account and the quality of the videos/voice/ the nice music they put when nothing was happening – really professional! And ArabNet, they really understood that if they just empower the social media addicts, their event will be promoted across the roof and that’s what happened.

4.PHOTOS

We live in the now and like to see photos now, and share them and comment on them – ALL NOW! So do not make us wait two days for your flickr or facebook gallery upload. You can set up something extremely simple on site, like that photo booth Arabnet had (could not find link), that immediately sent all photos to their flickr account. Also make sure if you have something like that up & running, promote it well before and during the event.

You have a lot of room to be creative here and there are more wonderful ideas out there to engage people in crowdsourced photography at your event.

5. Icing on the Cake – Netvibes

So you do all of the stuff I mentioned above and integrate all of them into one awesome netvibes page that people courting your event could easily follow.  This is one of the more magical tools out there and one I really, really adore to look at when it comes to events I am not at and ones I am at (if they have one that is). For instance check the cool netvibes page SpotOnPR does annually for Gitex and while you are at it, check Spot On PR’s Netvibe’s page. Don’t you see how that will help your event to become more sharable and viral?

6. Social booklets

You lovely event organizers always give us those nice and creative booklets with all the info about the speakers, but why oh why don’t you mention the speakers’/moderators’ twitter handles, websites, blogs next to their names, so we can connect to them, address our questions to them, or just plain stalk them? and while you’re at it, dedicate a page at the beginning providing us with the event hashtag, livestream, netvibes page… et all

7. PLUGSSSSS

I always email event organizers about plugs, they always feel so happy when i tell them i am planning to bring my laptop to livetweet and welcome the thought and assure me WIFI and electricity plugs are available, but up till now, none of them have delivered on that. Do you expect our battery lives to be infinite? Do you expect us to have spare batteries for our iPhones? We want to enjoy the event all of its durations while checking on work email and tweeting or life-blogging YOUR event. Plain and simple, there should be a dedicated plug at least for every four attendees… Not that I mind making eyes to the camera guy to co-share his plug and carrying around at all times a multi-plug adapter, or stealing power for my mobile from a fellow attendees dying laptop…

8. GOOD WIFI

This probably should’ve been at the top of the list, but I consider it a basic and only as I reread the whole thing I decided to highlight it, just in case….

9.Screen & Screen Brightness

Also a little after thought: try to have several screens at the event and make sure that their brightness is optimal, so we are able to take good cellphone pics no matter how far from the stage we are without stealing your speaker’s valuable “top secrets”.

After Event Tips

  • Encourage us to send feedback
  • Send us all the lovely links for the photos, social pages, videos, slides … post event stats, news clippings about the event
  • It is also lovely to receive some post event answers to questions that were asked during teh forum but did not have enough time to be answered properly or the material/numbers was not at hand.
  • Send us an industry newsletter (yeah i do not mind up being automatically signed up for that)
  • Ask us what do we want to see at your next event
  • Continue Tweeting, Updating the Facebook/linked in page of the event and engaging all who were at the event

Next month, I am planning on attending the 1st Arab Social Media Forum, which the organizers are promising to be a wholesomely dedicated event to all social media aspects… so…. Guys, I am really hoping on seeing all that stuff there [wink, wink]!

Have I left anything out? What is it that you found missing at the last event you have attended?

*Update 1: Forgot to tell you how at Microsoft Open Door Event this year there were special giveaways prepared for tweeters. Small giveaway, but nonetheless, it was pretty sweet.

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  1. John Antonios’s avatar

    Hats off Darine – really hats off … I was really hoping you’d miss out on something so i can add a valuable comment to your post, but frankly, the only thing i could think of based on the last event i attended (MediaMEforum) is that the air-conditioning made it seem like we were in Alaska (not in Jordan) and I caught a cold because of it.
    I have to admit that I too learned something new from your post today – NETVIBES – i love the collage that could serve as a pre, during, and post event portal!
    Thanks for sharing this post with me … you spoke my mind loud and clear!

    Reply

  2. Habib’s avatar

    Hah, sorry for cutting the live stream from the YallaStartup Weekend, we were not trying to be mean but mostly were resource stranded with all of our focus being on the participants and help them create their startup over 54 hours :) Next time, we’ll invite you there to make it up :)

    Reply

  3. Khaled Hakim’s avatar

    Great post. It’s nice to see someone list all the things that all of us on Social Media would like to see at a conference or event. Very nice listing and proper reasoning supplied for all items listed. Touche!

    Reply

  4. Bernard Sadaka (@sdkaaa)’s avatar

    Excellent post Darine…

    In fact we’ve been organising a similar but more complex event setup during the last couple of year at IGF and EuroDIG and similar events around Internet Governance. (with the exception of point 4 the automatic pictures, we had a dedicated live tweeting photographer who is also able to tag people’s names my friend @seiitiarata ).

    You see we setup a full scale remote participation platform (also called: E-participation or Online Engagement) including audiocast/videocast/captioning/chat/twitterfeeds and most importantly we provide a dual communication way:

    During the last IGF we had around 1500 people who attended physically the event in Vilnius and over 600 that connected online including 35 panellists participating remotely (which actually did many remote interventions live via audio and video) some of them were even MPs from European countries. Many other interventions where simple chat and/or tweets spoken loudly by each session’s moderator (we had 10 parallel sessions, each session had a dedicated moderator which represents remote people physically in the session). This was done for the duration of the 4 days of the event.
    We also had dedicated social reporting bloggers.

    We organized almost the same setup in earlier year’s events as well.
    we can talk more in depth later if like…

    All the best,
    Bernard.

    Reply

  5. Mohamad’s avatar

    Excellent post Darine. Please keep these articles coming. I would like to add the video aspect (if Internet helps) Maybe 2m max interview with speakers, participants, organizers…Will be really an additional success to the online coverage. We did this one in Amman in 09: http://www.netvibes.com/smextoday#MOBDATA
    We used: Blogs, Flickr, Youtube, Wiki, Google doc (Internal) and of course Twitter with a screen to show the tweets. In every conference in Lebanon, the major problem is the Internet connection..

    Best,
    Mohamad

    Reply

  6. Craig’s avatar

    I think I mostly disagree with you, Darine. The purpose of tech expos is for vendors, innovators, inventors, developers and interested observers to be able to meet face to face and engage in discussions with one another in person. By encouraging people to attend and then broadcast their impressions out on the internet, they would be creating some pretty big problems for themselves. For one, attendees who doing that aren’t fully “there” – they are more interested in “reselling” the the demos and presentations they are seeing to people who aren’t present rather than actively participating in what’s going on. That takes control of how a technology is being presented and how it is described away from the people whose job it is to promote the tech. Some people may think this is a good thing, and some people may even think their opinions of a technology are more valuable than the opinions of the developers (and their competitors) but I don’t think many tech companies are in such a hurry to lose control of their “message”, right? :)

    Also a lot of people will end up thinking they know all about a tech after they got it third or fourth hand, when in reality all they know is what they were told by whoever they were following on tweet that day. And as a software developer who has been made to man a booth a time or two, I can offer first hand testimony to the fact that at least half of the people who witness a demo don’t have any clue about what they just saw, and even after 10 or 15 minutes carefully answering their questions at least half of THAT half is even more clueless after its been explained than they were before. I personally would not want people who saw me do a software demo trying to explain it to their friends. But maybe that’s just me. In any case, that’s what marketing departments and trade journalists are for.

    I’m not disputing that a lot of people on the net like to get the “inside scoop” in real time. I’m just saying, I don’t think that’s necessarily in the interests of the industry pros who tend to attend tech expos.

    Reply

    1. Darine Sabbagh’s avatar

      Thank you for your comment Craig,

      I believe here you are concerned about the speaker’s message getting across and the audience’s attention span. Your concern is valid I must admit and yet, audience can get distracted in whatever medium as long as they have their mobile devices and follow audience members with them.

      On the other hand, I am studying the optimization of communication between audience and speakers as well as providing the audience with the best tools to fully monitor the event both during and after the conference, in addition to addressing the specific needs of digital natives (which are a large part of audiences at tech events) who are used to multitasking and using social media tools during events and the presence of which will enhance their event experience and not detract from it. (Satisfaction element)

      Another aspect I am indirectly addressing is event reach, PR and promotional coverage which is critical for every event organizer.

      Reply

  7. Craig’s avatar

    I believe here you are concerned about the speaker’s message getting across and the audience’s attention span. Your concern is valid I must admit and yet, audience can get distracted in whatever medium as long as they have their mobile devices and follow audience members with them.

    Well, it’s not so much the message getting across as it is the speaker being able to make sure the audience understands the message. That’s not always easy, even in a one on one impromptu Q&A session in person. It doesn’t do anyone any good if the rumor-mill starts churning out a lot of misinformation about a product, or a technology.

    On the other hand, I am studying the optimization of communication between audience and speakers as well as providing the audience with the best tools to fully monitor the event both during and after the conference, in addition to addressing the specific needs of digital natives (which are a large part of audiences at tech events) who are used to multitasking and using social media tools during events and the presence of which will enhance their event experience and not detract from it. (Satisfaction element)

    Well, that could certainly work provided that there was a lively discussion amongst the people who were “attending” virtually, and provided at least some of the people in that discussion were well-informed and could explain stuff to those who weren’t. But that’s a bit hit-or-miss, and it’s just as likely there’ll be a know-it-all or two who sends everyone the wrong direction, right?

    I agree this has a big appeal for many though? Being able to get all that buzz going about a product can make all the difference for a new tech. I think if I was running a new startup, I’d rather have people talking about my stuff even if everything they were saying was incorrect, than to have nobody even notice.

    Another aspect I am indirectly addressing is event reach, PR and promotional coverage which is critical for every event organizer.

    Yes, that’s a good point. I agree that for the organizers and the sponsors, the more they can make a venue appealing to potential attendees the better.

    Reply

    1. Darine Sabbagh’s avatar

      Thank you Craig,

      You are one awesome guy. I really appreciate you taking your time to reply to the comment and adding a much needed “Devil’s Advocate” voice to the conversation.
      Yes you are right, distraction and message erosion & distortion are a possible risk that organizers and speakers must be aware of.

      On the other hand, they are at the same time benefiting from live feedback which they can monitor and proactively respond to, to correct any misinformation and enhance message.

      Reply

  8. Danielle’s avatar

    Wow Darine, you are something else! What a fantastic post. I have yet to go to any of these events myself, but now I know what to expect!! And I agree with @johnantonios..the netvibes thing is really cool!

    Reply

  9. Maria’s avatar

    waw ,you seem a very active person ,i love your enthusiasm ,and your article is great .all the best

    Reply

    1. Darine Sabbagh’s avatar

      Oh, Thank you Maria, I am really enjoyinh your documentation of Paris as well, please keep it up :)

      Reply

  10. Lorena’s avatar

    Great article Darine! :-)

    Reply

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